Welcome to part one of our two part community interview with the Worlds of Magic team. We asked you for some great questions, and you certainly delivered. Aaron Ethridge and Leszek Lisowski, two members of the Worlds of Magic team, were excited to take on the challenge of tackling all of your questions, as well as a few of SpaceSector’s, and they readily supplied honest and thorough responses to each of them. Some of their responses were so thorough in fact, we decided to separate the interview into two roughly equal parts to make it a little easier to digest. Part two will be posted soon, but for now, we hope you enjoy part one of the interview! Thanks again for submitting such thought provoking questions, I really enjoyed reading the responses!
csebal: Excluding Worlds of Magic, what is your favorite game in the genre?
Aaron: One might expect me to immediately say “Master of Magic, of course!”, but to be completely honest I would have to say Master of Orion 2 is my favorite. Of course, MoM is a very, very close second. The “tie breaker” between the two is probably the ability you have in MoO2 to completely customize a species. You can basically break the balance with that, which can be a lot of fun.
Osito: Why do you think that no one has succeeding in creating what many would consider a proper successor to MOO/MOO2 and MOM? Why will you succeed when everyone else has failed?
Aaron: Well, it’s hard to guess what other people’s motivations or goals are. In most cases I think a real successor to MoM hasn’t been created because that wasn’t the number one goal of the projects that have somewhat followed in MoM’s footsteps. The reason we’re going to succeed in making a spiritual successor is because that’s our primary goal. The question we constantly ask is “Would this work in MoM?”. Whenever we make a change or add a feature we do it while keeping that question in mind. We use words like MoM-like and MoMesk when discussing features and mechanics with the community. I feel we’re going to succeed because we’re keeping our eyes on our primary goal at all times.
csebal: What do you consider to be the most important and least important game mechanics in the fantasy 4X genre?
Aaron: That is an excellent question. In fact, it’s almost a trick question, lol. No matter what I say people are going to jump up to agree as well as disagree with me. The only thing I can do is be honest about my personal feelings on the subject.
I think that the AI is probably the most important mechanic in a 4X game. A really great game can be completely ruined by a bad AI simply because most of the time these games are played against the computer. 4X games are one area where single player gaming is alive and well. If the AI can’t offer players a challenge then they don’t get that sense of having really conquered the universe. As that’s kind of the point of these games, a bad AI can really mess things up.
“Least important” is very difficult to highlight in my opinion. There are a number of mechanics that are interdependent, any one of which can undergo major modifications without hurting the game. So, in a sense, they’re not “important” because their exact implementation isn’t important. There’s a lot of wiggle room with combat mechanics, income mechanics, building trees, etc, just because, in most cases, you can fill your armies with the best of all races. So, if High Men Paladins end up a little OP because of the implantation of the combat mechanics it’s not going to ruin the game. In fact, one of the things people love about MoM are the little imbalances that you can find here and there. (Honestly, some would say they’re not so “little”, lol.) Really all the mechanics are important. All of them affect game play. This is the closest I can come to picking a “least important” one.
JoshT: What new features and additions are present in Worlds of Magic that make it more than just a spiritual successor to Master of Magic? Which of these new features or additions do you feel is most significant?
Aaron: There are number of additions and changes that separate Worlds of Magic from its inspiration (that being MoM, of course). Personally I feel the most significant change has been in the magic system. MoM sorted spells into five schools of magic. A player would select what schools his wizard understood and that would shape his potential spell list. Worlds of Magic sorts spells into twelve different spell circles. In reality they can be looked at as two sets of six. One set sorts spells according to element, the other sorts them according to effect. This gives players much more control over their potential spell list and makes choices at character creation very significant. This is especially true because the circles overlap. The details of the system are too complex to go into here, but we’ve got a great deal of information up on our wiki. At the end of the day the point is simply this: It’s a lot easier to be a Summoner in WoM and get every summoning spell in the game. It’s also easy to become a Terraformer and get all the spells that terraform the landscape. We feel this is a great feature because it offers the player more while at the same time maintaining MoM’s spirit.
zigzag: What feature did you have the most difficulty deciding to cut?
Aaron: This is a difficult question because “cut” is such a strong word. There have been a number of proposed features that we’ve had to “put on the shelf” until a later date, but few have truly been cut. For instance, a number of fans wanted us to add “underground” and “underwater” areas to the world map, basically making each Plane two separate conquerable areas. The idea certainly has some appeal, but it doesn’t really fit in our base game concept. Another proposed feature was procedurally generated dungeons and micro-rpg adventures. The idea was basically that some world features could only be interacted with using heroes. You would lead your party of heroes through these procedurally generated adventures to get loot and what have you. I think I would enjoy playing through them, but they would obviously need to be optional. Needless to say we don’t have room for such a large optional feature in the base game.
Keith Turner: For quite a while now, since the time of the first Kickstarter in fact, Worlds of Magic has had some rather active backer-only forums on the site. How valuable has the feedback and discussion on these forums been to the development team? More specifically, what are the one or two most significant changes you’ve made to the design based on forum/backer feedback?
Aaron: Essential. That’s the only word that describes their value to the project. To be perfectly frank, we weren’t sure what to expect when we decided to open things up to the community. It started out as a place we could get a little feedback on our ideas and polish up a feature or two. However, the fan base turned out to be very active, very vocal, and very opinionated (in a good way). It wasn’t long before we started asking them for input on almost everything we were doing.
You want two significant changes brought about by the community? Let’s see: The magic system was given a thorough overhaul and really made to shine. I feel my original concept started us on the right track, but community feedback has turned it into something truly awesome. Several of the races have been almost completely community designed. The discussions were even organized and managed by one of our volunteer moderators. As lead designer I acted as a facilitator that could provide concise answers to help wrap up debates and bring about a consensus. However, my hand was only very lightly on the helm. In the main the community made all the decisions concerning the Draconians, Myrodants (Insectoids), Grey Elves, and Orcs. They shaped their cultures, look, units, buildings, etc. The development team simply acted as agents to help them come to solid decisions from a design point of view. All in all it’s been a remarkable experience. I feel privileged to be part of it.
AstralWanderer: AI is a key part of most strategy games, yet few manage to do it well (Master of Magic itself was criticized for poor AI). What steps are you taking to make your AI challenging (without cheating) and what have been the biggest challenges in doing so?
Leszek: The AI will be based on a selection of characteristics attached to the Sorcerer Lord. So generally we are planning to prepare some personalities. However this could start to be boring after couple of plays against the same opponent, so this can be also set to random. Each of the AI’s will have its own goals and desires and of course will try to achieve victory by adapting to the current diplomatic and economic situation. Personally I’m aiming to make the AI surprising and competent in its action, however the more peculiar the AI, the more unpredictable actions the AI can take. So in general we will try to teach the AI how to make best decisions and actions to achieve victory and outdo the player and other AIs. We will do our best to make the AI slightly difficult to beat at the Easy level for those who played some 4X games in the past.
UncaJoe, Keith Turner: Many 4X games, even MoO (I and II) and MoM, have issues with micro-management in the late game. This is primarily due to the vast number of cities you’ll create or conquer as you expand across the 1 or 2 planes most games in the genre offer. With over 7 planes to colonize and potentially conquer, what methods will you be providing to help players manage their many cities/provinces/etc.?
Aaron: We are certainly aware of the potential problem. A universe composed of huge world maps spanning seven different planes has got a lot of micromanagement potential. Our first line of defense against that old enemy are the tools we provide to make management easier. Players will be able to manage all their fielded armies from a single menu. They will be able to look at each unit in each army from a single GUI. The Cities GUI gives the player a load of information in a single panel. Build queues allow the player to lay out what a city should be working on for a good long while. We’re even thinking about implementing customizable templates that will allow a player to found a city with a number of pre-queued buildings. Of course, this is just the beginning. We intend to get community feedback during the alpha and beta testing stages and implement a number of tools to help with management as well as streamlining things as much as possible. We’ve even discussed making customizable city and empire management AIs that can take some of the workload of the player (if that’s their desire). As I said before, we know it can be a problem and we intend to keep it from becoming one.
Leszek: EXTRA NEWS: The templates will make into the game for sure. ;)
Ervin Rome: Will you be able to win the game through diplomatic or other means aside from warfare?
Aaron: Yes. That’s the short answer. The diplomacy system is very tied to the AI and at the moment it’s still under active development. To be perfectly frank, we may have a fairly easy to manage diplomacy system at launch. However, we’ll be able to expand on it in the future. There are just so many features in WoM that we’re not going to be able to fit everything we would like to see in the game in the initial release. For instance, we want a number of additional races, but we’re going to have to wait to add more until after launch. The same is probably going to be true of a very in-depth diplomacy system.
PowerSoul: Will modding be available and supported in Worlds of Magic, and if so, how significantly will players be able to modify the game?
Aaron: The game is being designed with modding in mind. The goal is to make “everything” moddable wherever possible. At the moment the military units of each race can be significantly changed with regard to training and upkeep costs, combat statistics, attacks, etc. Spells are very moddable and currently modders can change costs (research, casting, infusing, and upkeep), duration, area of effect, spell circle(s), tier, icon, and visual effect. We have plans to make even more moddable in time. The idea is to make the game something the community can tweak and toy with.
Leszek: This is the philosophy that stands behind Wastelands Interactive since the foundation. We are making as many aspects of our games moddable, as possible. This allows not only to create more fan content for the games, but also allows player to adjust the game exactly to his/hers needs.
SpaceSector: We aren’t done yet. Keep an eye out for more of your questions in part two of this interview in the near future. Thanks again for the great questions!
- Worlds of Magic Community Interview – Part 2
- Worlds of Magic: Early Access Coming Soon
- Worlds of Magic: Early Access Available and First Impressions
- Worlds of Magic – 2nd Kickstarter Campaign
- Worlds of Magic: Master of Magic Spiritual Successor Aspirant